10 Signs of a Bad Winter to Come

The leaves are changing, there's a chill in the air and the days are most definitely getting shorter. As the first day of autumn has already passed, it leaves most of us wondering what kind of winter we have on the way.

In 1978, The Farmers Almanac featured a list of 20 signs of a bad winter to come, and it’s still just as relevant today as it was back then. In this blog post we’re going to explore 10 of these signs traditionally used for weather forecasting in the winter.

In this modern era, checking the weather is as easy as opening an app on a smartphone to see what the week ahead holds. But what if you could predict the winter weather from as early as August or September, simply by paying close attention to the natural world?

Ancient folklore sees our ancestors out in the wilderness, observing the subtle behaviours of plants, animals and insects to predict the weather. Should we be out doing the same?


Traditional Weather Lore

  1. Thick onion skins

    Signs of a bad winter to come - thick onion skins

    If you enjoy growing your own food and have some onions ready for harvest, head out and check on the thickness of the skin.

    A thicker onion skin is a sign that a harsh winter is to come. Thinner skin and you can expect a mild winter.

    “Onion’s skin very thin,
    Mild winter coming in;
    Onion’s skin thick and rough,
    Coming winter cold and rough.”

  2. Thick hair on a cow’s nape

    Stroke a cow on the nape of its neck, does the hair feel thicker than normal? This is a sign of a cooler winter.

  3. The early departure of geese and ducks

    Winter weather folklore - geese flying south for the winter

    We all know birds fly south for the winter to avoid the harsh cold weather, but if they head off early this year.. Do they know something we don’t.

  4. Numerous foggy days throughout August

    It’s believed that for every day of fog we have in August we will have days of snowfall in the winter.

  5. Pigs gathering sticks

    If you see pigs gathering sticks, this is a universal sign of a rough winter with lots of snow.

  6. Spiders entering the home in large numbers and spinning large webs

    Large spider webs can predict a cold winter

    A high number of spiders entering the home is said to predict a cold winter, as well as large spun spider webs.

  7. An abundance of acorns

    If you live anywhere near an oak tree and notice an abundance this year, as well as a large amount falling then be prepared for a cold winter.

  8. Woolly bear caterpillars with thick coats predict a cold winter

    Woolly worms or woolly bear caterpillars are the larvae of Isabella tiger moths and can be found widely in UK woodlands. They are easily recognised for their short, reddish-brown and black bristles.

    Legend goes, if the hair on the caterpillar is much thicker than usual then a cold winter is on the way. Others say if the brown band is narrow the winter will be long and cold, a wider band indicates a short, mild winter.

  9. Squirrels with fluffy tails gathering nuts early

    Squirrel gathering nuts early

    If the squirrels this year have very fluffy tails and have started gathering their nuts early, get ready for a winter full of snow.

    “Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry,
    Will cause snow to gather in a hurry.”

  10. Halos around the Sun or Moon

    Seeing frequent rings or halos around the sun and moon is said to predict heavy snowfall in the winter. This is caused by light refracting off ice crystals in Cirrus clouds.

    "Halo around the sun or moon,
    Rain or snow soon."


See the full list of 20 signs over on the Farmers Almanac website.

Cold or mild winter, get loved ones gardens spruced up ready for the season. For birthdays later on in the year we have a beautiful selection of autumn trees for vibrant colourful foliage and evergreen trees perfect for the winter.